Jeremy Spiegel M.D.

Mind Tapas

Capitalize on Your Creativity Today!

Three principles to get your juices flowing.

Posted Sep 19, 2019

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Source: PxHere/Creative Commons/No Attribution Required

I’m talking to an old man with a wildly curly brown beard in what appears to be a large room in his house, a dark cherry wood-paneled den as from the Mad Men era notable for its elaborate finials punctuating a railing along the walls. 

A group of us, men and women who know each other, are gathered around this handsome dark room, one moment we’re looking up at a nondescript rotating fan installed below a plain beige plaster ceiling. In the next few moments something happens like a montage of frames in an avant-garde film. I’m first looking away towards the ground, then without having to move my head again upwards, with the shock of utter illogic and surprise I’m aware of a wide opening in the ceiling.  

The old man running this event--what feels very much like an event, a meeting or conference--reveals in a way reminiscent of how Steve Jobs would unveil features of the latest iPhone that he finally finished his project and was pleased all of us were in attendance, all thirty or so of us, so we could now join him in exploring his grand creation. 

The old man made it so Japan was upstairs. 

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Source: PxHere/Creative Commons/No Attribution Required

To be clear: this was no portal to Japan. He made his invention so Japan existed upstairs at this very same address where his ranch-style house was located.  Whether or not Japan still occupied the place on the globe west of California and east of China was not elaborated. This potential logical inconsistency was immaterial to the immediate truth before us, that we could see Japan now from where we were standing below. 

As I look up, the ceiling is now a large open rectangle and you can see just an enticing little bit of the front room upstairs. It’s an antechamber. A room which is the first, smaller room, before opening up to another larger room. This was the front room of Japan, as though Japan were an Ikea with a particular path to take to explore its geography. It was a narrative with at least a beginning and a middle, so was at once a place and a happening.

I felt in the pit of my stomach a neutron star’s mass worth of fear until the old man placed his hand on my left shoulder and told me I will enjoy my experience. I knew he was telling the truth. I also knew he had created all of this for me, with me in mind. Yet I had deep empathy for my fellow group members and was profoundly worried about them.  

And I had this overwhelming idea, while transitioning from sleeping to waking, that previous dreams had been all true, the events therein actually occurred and related to each other, not as a revelation of easily understandable truths in my waking life, but as truths unto themselves, existing apart from what I recognize to be real during waking hours. 

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To those who are seeking to create art in their lives in any form, I believe there are some basic ways of being in order to begin to instantiate what would otherwise be just a lot of unused potential energy.

1. Consider your dreams. 

What you read above in italics was my recollection of my dream from last night, the night of September 17th, 2019, so you can first peer into my particular mind when left to its own devices. But more importantly, so you can see how there could easily be a natural progression from involuntary dream to intentionally written story, and how filling in gaps and extending the dream beyond its precise boundaries becomes a consciously creative act. 

There is so much more to explore beyond the tired old Freudian tropes of his particular and very dated notion of dream interpretation. I implore you: don’t get stuck there. I would ask you to intentionally avoid “interpreting” your dreams at all. I propose instead you use your dreams as a springboard not only for a narrative, but for physical invention, or to inspired action. Utilize your dreams in the vernacular and elusive logic of the dreams themselves. The dream feelings, content, and characteristics lend themselves more directly to the creative process without having to be compiled, rationalized, and interpreted first. Plant the mystery of the dream into your creative soil, without crushing those fragile and volatile seeds--resist the urge to interpret it. 

Can you see how one dream could perhaps spawn numerous short stories? Or maybe could result in triggering other dreams, as has happened before when I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about particular dream elements in my waking hours. 

Even if some of the ideas seem familiar when examining them more closely, for example, I wonder privately if some of the material comes from things I have seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or from a science fiction book I read called The Three Body Problem? Maybe it was from avoiding continuing on to Season Two of The Handmaid’s Tale? Regardless of how the dream took root in me last night, it can be mined for interesting ideas which may lead to yet other ideas. I’m not sure that any of the ideas in the dream did come from those works of fiction above, but I have strong associations to those works so I’m wondering if my mind has somehow twisted otherwise quiescent ideas and images to form a novel reality for me to experience last night. 

I strongly suggest you utilize the nocturnal theater of the mind to get your creative juices flowing. 

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2. Obsess

If you spend time thinking about something you will increase the odds that you will improve your project. This would seem to be a no-brainer, but what I’m talking about is that you ought to never quite let your project go for long or for very far. Keep it close to your chest, think about it in the wasted moments that people find all throughout the day to check their smartphone needlessly with their necks bent and eyes glazed. Instead of whipping it out every five minutes out of sheer habit or boredom or both you can instead be thinking deep thoughts, with the unaided brain, eyes turned inward towards your own private creation you are in the process of building. 

The more you obsess about your creative project the more you give it life. I’m using obsess loosely here, you might say ‘obsess’ here has a lowercase ‘o’. 

I’m not suggesting you get sick over it. Take a break, sure. But what I’m getting at is to never give up. Keep thinking, keep adding to it, and enjoy the process of building something that maybe only you care about and maybe only you will ever see. Don’t let it go, let it live. Breathe small breaths of life into it here and there, in fits and starts, it will add up. 

Put your phone away for a while longer than you normally do before checking it again and again. Make your personal creative process your go-to healthy obsession. 

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Source: PxHere/Creative Commons/No Attribution Required

3. Stop worrying about the outcome of your labor

Who doesn’t want to be rich and famous from something you have created? Wait...maybe this is a terrible goal to begin with. Being famous is actually not that great, not that I would know, but I imagine it not to be so great as it would seem to others who number among the anonymous masses. You want to give up your precious privacy just because you made something creative? Think about it, I don’t think you would. I don’t know you but still I don’t think a reasonable person would want to part with the untold pleasures of being able to wriggle unencumbered into a crowd like one of the zillion little swimmers of a school of fish. 

And as far as the rich part: it’s a nice thought, but again, if that’s the primary goal it’s hard to imagine how easily you’ll be able to cobble together enough interesting ideas forming a cohesive whole with that kind of pressure on you. 

As a close friend tells me often and which I’ve taken to repeating almost as frequently to myself: just enjoy your life.

So I say this to you, creative person: just enjoy your life.  In this context it means: just have fun with your new project. Or projects. Play with ideas, images, juxtapositions of ideas and images, and see what happens. Write, draw, paint, photograph, program, invent, or do thought experiments. Whatever it is you do do, do it in the name of adding to your life’s richness and pleasure.